The cancellation of Scalebound is something of a surprise, even more so given past E3 conferences. Neatly placed in a prime spot during Microsoft’s E3 2014 conference, Scalebound was hardly a ‘small’ game. Attaching Platinum Games to a console exclusive is a pretty big deal. It’s not like the game was hidden away at future events, far from it in fact. Scalebound featured at various expos throughout 2015 and 16. E3 2016 hosted a playable four-player co-op demo, normally a solid sign of a game’s development progress. Yet there’s history that could
A Little Late
It’s hard to remember that Scalebound was originally set for release in the second half 2016. The development process was quite a long one, until it the game was pushed into a 2017 release. Platinum justified the delay by stating –
”In order to deliver on our ambitious vision and ensure that Scalebound lives up to expectations, we will be launching the game in 2017 ”
In hindsight, perhaps this was the first sign of trouble. There were never any hints or stories pointing towards any issues on the game’s development. Interviews with Hideki Kamiya mostly consisted of excitement, along with nods towards how big the game was going to be.
Reckless In Japanese
In an interview with Metro.co.uk, Kamiya said he was ‘not really concerned about making it so everybody loves it’. The comment raised a few eye brows at the time, but most accepted it was just his infamous attitude at play. Unfortunately for Kamiya, and for Scalebound, Microsoft needed to love the game too.
Microsoft don’t exactly have a great history with Japanese video games. The original Xbox flopped in the far East. With this in-mind, Microsoft made great strides to crack the Japanese market with the Xbox 360.
Hatching deals with the likes of Mistwalker studios helped increase the 360’s appeal in Japan. Blue Dragon and Lost Odyssey formed the spear head of the attack, with both games selling fairly well. Locking down Ace Combat 6 as an Xbox 360 exclusive, also factored into Microsoft’s grand plan.
Land of the Sinking Box
In the end, their attempt on taking the Japanese market failed once again. Even with the surprising success of Gears of War in the far East, it wasn’t enough. There’s a whole host of reasons attributed to the Xbox’s struggles in Japan. Keiji Inafune, the creator of Mega Man, put it down to one simple reason, Xbox was American. In a brief interview with IGN in 2013, Inafune said –
”As a Japanese [person], I think it’s only natural you feel closer or attached more to domestic products and I find myself being that way too. When you see two products with similar features and one is from your own country and the other is from foreign countries, it’s easy to pick the one from your own country.”
So what does all this have to do with Scalebound? The connection may not be obvious, but it’s undoubtedly there. Microsoft seem to struggle with the differences between Japanese and Western video games. Kamiya’s bullish attitude towards people’s reaction to the game suddenly feel more poignant. Even more so given the some of the official reaction to Scalebound’s cancellation.
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, took to Twitter with some insight into the cancellation –
His tweet prompts questions over the game’s quality and concepts. Did Scalebound match up to Microsoft’s standards? Are those the same standards that have been set by the expectations dictated by Western games? It’s a interesting thought, made even more compelling by Microsoft’s history with failures in Japan.
The Wild West
If we take a moment to view the Xbox One exclusive library of games, they’re (mostly) typically Western. Quantum Break, Halo 5, Dead Rising 4, Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3. None of these games carry much of a Eastern influence. Heck, even Dead Rising 4 marked the franchises tilt in westernisation.
Scalebound isn’t the only exclusive to drop dead. Lion Head Studio’s closure resulted in Fable Legends being cancelled. Then there’s the curious case of Phantom Dust, which has seemingly been left in limbo. Microsoft has been displaying a true ruthless streak in recent times, Scalebound seems to be just another victim. But can we really blame them?
Water Cooler Talk
As outsiders looking in, we don’t know all the facts. There’s been rumours of pressures affecting Platinum Games staff to the point they needed time off. Combine that with a prolonged development period, plus all the aforementioned history, and Scalebound sounds rather messy. It’s not often a major exclusive is cancelled after this many years of development.
But that’s not all. Microsoft have already began to purge their official channels of Scalebound’s presence. Trailers and gameplay videos have been either removed or made private, adding the drama of the affair.
The Xbox One has continued the trend of Xbox consoles performing poorly in Japan. At times, the number of systems sold has been embarrassingly low. Scalebound would have surely been earmarked by Microsoft to help ramp up sales in Japan. With no improvement to sales in sight, or Scalebound being any closer to release, perhaps this is the death of the game was to be expected.